Self-perceived intrinsic and extrinsic differences between Information Systems and Computer Science university students

Patricia M Alexander, Hugo H Lotriet, Vreda Pieterse


Strong arguments exist that the sub-disciplines of Information Systems (IS) and Computer Science (CS) can be meaningfully distinguished, and the literature indicates that teams in which there are variety of personalities and divergent career interests are more likely to successfully complete computing projects. This paper set out to identify differences in terms of personality and career objectives between those entering universities with the intention of pursuing a career in CS and those intending to study IS. First-year students from South African tertiary institutions in 2010 and 2012 were studied in terms of self-reported personality factors (using the Five Factor Model as frame of analysis) as well as perceived environmental factors associated with career choice. Surprisingly, the only persistent significant difference found was that IS students consider well-paid employment as soon as possible after graduating to be more important than CS students do. In terms of the other factors studied no significant differences were found to occur in both years for which data was analysed. Hence, the result show that combining data collected from the students studying different sub-disciplines of computing is justified for research that specifically studies personality or factors such as interest, self-efficacy, career outcomes and how the career choice impacts on quality of life. At a practical level, the findings inform efforts in attracting, retaining and teaching students in these sub-disciplines.


Career choice, Five Factor Model, computing careers

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